St Petersburg boat tours so far rank among the most popular activities among both – visitors to our city and locals. As warm spring sun melts snow and clears rivers and canals from ice, boat tours and water activities invariably gain popularity.
City on Water
St Petersburg spreads on 42 islands. In fact, the whole city centre is intersected with 93 rivers and canals. There are over 340 bridges: long and short, elaborate and plain, wide and narrow, steel, wooden and stone, suspension and draw bridges, railway and footbridges – you can find bridges to any taste and for any purpose.
Would you like to see the grandeur of St Petersburg? Have a closer look at the bridges and wrought iron lace of railings? Feel the “spirit of water”? Then add a river and canal boat ride to your tour plan. There are various boat trips to suit any taste and budget.
Public Boat Tours in St Petersburg
There are over 5000 boats – big and small – officially registered and licenced to provide tours to the citizens and guests of our city. One can choose a budget public tour or a private ride by a small boat. Practically every downtown pier in St Petersburg is occupied by some boat company advertising their public canal trips. As a rule, such tours take about 1 hour by a big boat (partially open, partially glasses in, small WC on board). The price varies starting from 700 rub, on average one can join in such a public boat trip for 750-800 rub, depending upon the pier. Note, that majority of public boat tours have live commentaries in Russian on board.
Audio-guides in English and other languages are offered aboard “Neptune” boat. Start place: Moika River Embankment, 26, on the side of Kempinski Hotel.
Neva River Cruise and Other Boat Tours
Public boat tours have different routes. This depends upon the locationof the pier and, sometimes, upon weather conditions. Cleaning and restoration of the embankments and bridges might limit the available routes too. As a rule the boat trips starting from piers on the Neva focus on the parade St Petersburg and rarely go to smaller canals. A number of boat companies offer a Neva River cruise by double-deck boats.
Restaurants, night clubs or even fitness centres on water in St Petersburg are considered very trendy. What if you’d like to have a romantic Neva River cruise with dinner or just a couple of drinks? A comfortable double-deck boat with a bar on board and live music starts from the pier with lions at Admiralty Embankment. Such a tour will cost you 1500 roubles (drinks and food are not included in the price). The dinner cruise takes 2 hours – quite enough to enjoy a nice meal, scenic views and live music. No commentaries on board (English or Russian).
Private Boat Tours: Small Boats – Comfortable Rides
Frankly speaking, I prefer private tours by small boats. Certainly they are more expensive (it might be considered a disadvantage) but there are a number of advantages to private canal boat rides:
- Flexibility – one can choose the start time, route, duration of the tour
- Privacy – no other tourists on the boat, the ride is meant for your party only
- Meeting your interests – you can opt to have live commentaries by a private guide (in English, Russian or other languages) or you might prefer to have a romantic boat ride to nice music
- Weather independent – during floods, when the level of water in St. Petersburg rivers and canals goes up, big boats usually have very restricted route (frequently confined to the Neva River only), whereas agile small boats can pass under even very low bridges and along the narrow canals.
On the rivers and canals in St. Petersburg one can find small retro boats and comfortable modern high speed boats. They are priced differently: retro boats are less expensive, they are between 5000-6000 roubles an hour (depending upon the week day, daytime and your bargaining skills). High speed boat rides are more expensive, around 7000 roubles an hour.
White Nights Boat Trips and Raised Bridges
White Nights, outstanding architecture, big city lights – every visitor wants to feel the vibe of St. Petersburg. It’s a very special time and a sunset boat trip or the Neva river cruise for raised bridges provide a very special setting.
The hourly rates are about the same as for the daytime tours, but one needs to take into consideration, that a raised bridges tour takes about 2 hours.
What Bridges are Raised at Night?
Massive bridge spans are raised at different times according to the schedule set for each summer in the beginning of the navigation period. Night Neva river cruise allows to see the famous bridges:
- Blagoveshchensky Bridge was the first one ever built across the Neva.
- Trinity Bridge, designed by Batignolles company was a present from France to Russia and is sometimes nicknamed the Eiffel Bridge.
- Palace Bridge is a magnet for tourists. Though unfinished because of WW1 and revolution, this bridge is considered the most beautiful during raising of the bridges. Its graceful silhouette appears on all the postcards and fridge magnets.
- Liteiny Bridge has the Neva’s deepest place under its opening span.
- Alexander Nevsly Bridge is St. Petersburg’s longest one.
Wheelchair Accessible Boat Tours in St. Petersburg
A lot of thought went into the design of our retro boat called “Gorby”. We wanted to accommodate the most vulnerable tourist group and provide accessible boat rides to physically challenged people. A flat deck and a wider entrance make the boat accessible for wheelchair and motorized scooter users.
There are not many accessible piers in St. Petersburg. We use the ones with slopes to make the boarding smooth and safe. The approximate duration of a wheelchair boat ride is 1 hour 15-20 minutes, covering a very extensive route that includes the Neva and most famous canals (the Kryukov Canal and the Winter Canal plus such central rivers as the Moika and Fontanka). Practically, you will see the whole city centre with its most famous landmarks from a different angle, passing 40 bridges on the way (most famous of them being the Anichkov, Trinity and Blue Bridges).
St. Petersburg boat ride is one of the most amazing tours accessible for physically challenged people.